Import Selection: Chianti, 1990. Melini Borghi D’Elsa
Founded in 1705, the Melini winery owns 225 acres of vineyards in Tuscany, home to many of Italy’s finest red wines. Melini stands as one of the top four producers in the renowned Chianti region there. This wine gets its name for the villages (borghi) along the River Elsa and comes from their modern facility at Gaggiano.
About a century ago, one Adolfo Laborel Melini, who had taken over his family’s firm, made a significant, historic, contribution to the success of the local wine industry. The plant louse, phylloxera, had all but destroyed France’s vineyards. Wine exports from Italy rose from 500,000 hectolitres in 1878 to two and a half million in 1883. There was great demand for Chianti in its famous and charming straw-covered flagon. Due to the fragility of the fiasco (flask), the traditional way of sealing these flagons had always been by hand, with a layer of oil between the cork and the wine. Customers abroad, unaware that the oil had to be removed, or not knowing how to do so (with a dab of cotton or a deft flick of the wrist) would often have at it straight away, with disastrous results to the palate. Adolfo Laborel summarized the problem:
“…if shipped in ordinary bottles Chianti fails to please, because the overseas customer likes the traditional Chianti fiasco.”
With the help of a local glass firm, he developed the so-called strapeso flagon, which was strong enough to stand up to oil-free, modernized, automatic corking. Chianti captured the lion’s share of the red wine market.
Chianti wine is a blend of several grapes. Our selection contains 80% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo, both red grape varietals. The former, a truly “noble” grape, gives the wine body, tannin, acid, and “breed”, while the latter adds color and complexity. The white grapes, Malvasia and Trebbiano, are added to the blend, 10% combined, for a softening touch. Aging in wood is traditional. This wine was oak aged for one year.
It has a medium dark garnet color, offering a slightly fruity aroma with some herbaceousness developing as bouquet. Good, dry Chianti character pervades its full body with satisfying, tart fruit flavors and a hint of wood. A slight bitterness in the finish complements rather than detracts.
Serve at room temperature with red sauced pasta dishes or broiled lambchops.
Cellaring Notes: Ready to drink now, it can easily hold for two to three more years.
Reviewed by Larry Tepper
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